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Genes Brain Behav. 2018 Jul;17(6):e12472. doi: 10.1111/gbb.12472. Epub 2018 Apr 15.

Predicting loneliness with polygenic scores of social, psychological and psychiatric traits.

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Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Avera Institute for Human Genetics, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Amsterdam Neuroscience, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.


Loneliness is a heritable trait that accompanies multiple disorders. The association between loneliness and mental health indices may partly be due to inherited biological factors. We constructed polygenic scores for 27 traits related to behavior, cognition and mental health and tested their prediction for self-reported loneliness in a population-based sample of 8798 Dutch individuals. Polygenic scores for major depressive disorder (MDD), schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were significantly associated with loneliness. Of the Big Five personality dimensions, polygenic scores for neuroticism and conscientiousness also significantly predicted loneliness, as did the polygenic scores for subjective well-being, tiredness and self-rated health. When including all polygenic scores simultaneously into one model, only 2 major depression polygenic scores remained as significant predictors of loneliness. When controlling only for these 2 MDD polygenic scores, only neuroticism and schizophrenia remain significant. The total variation explained by all polygenic scores collectively was 1.7%. The association between the propensity to feel lonely and the susceptibility to psychiatric disorders thus pointed to a shared genetic etiology. The predictive power of polygenic scores will increase as the power of the genome-wide association studies on which they are based increases and may lead to clinically useful polygenic scores that can inform on the genetic predisposition to loneliness and mental health.


genetic correlation; genetic prediction; loneliness; major depressive disorder; polygenic scores

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